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Atria's growth stems from foundation in American favorites

| Sunday, March 27, 2005

"Straightforward American food" awaits patrons at Atria's Restaurant & Tavern -- Jay Dabat promises it.

The director of operations for the restaurant says ethnic influences are featured occasionally, but diners can be sure that the core menu of signature sandwiches, steaks, burgers, entree salads, pasta, chicken and steak still remains. Atria's has seven area locations; an eighth restaurant is scheduled to open this summer in Murrysville.

The popular bourbon- and maple-laced pot roast -- as well as pot roast nachos -- continue to draw the faithful. The pot roast -- slowly cooked beef served with mashed potatoes and vegetables -- is the No. 1 menu favorite at Atria's, which is managed by Restaurant Holdings, the same company that oversees Mike Ditka's restaurant in Chicago.

"We try to stay on the edge of food," Dabat says. "We do have seasonal menus -- such as German dishes for Oktoberfest -- but our customers know they always can order fish prepared in different ways and our in-house hickory-smoked barbecued ribs."

Dabat describes the cuisine as "upscale American casual" -- Tomato Vodka Chicken Florentine, Gorgonzola Seafood Pasta, New York Strip Steak -- and homey desserts such as a Brownie Sundae, Fresh Fruit Crisp and Carrot Cake.

The original Atria's, owned by immigrant Joe Atria, dates to 1930 in Mt. Lebanon. It began as a grocery store, then expanded into a barbershop and dry cleaners. In 1933, he began to sell beer, and along came food to feed the thirsty, among them highbrow attorneys and blue-collar workingmen. The pub became a neighborhood landmark.

Businessman Pat McDonald of Upper St. Clair, a restaurateur, reopened Atria's seven years ago. Since then, locations have been established at PNC Park, and in Peters, Lyndhurst, O'Hara, Robinson and Pine.

Atria's will continue to grow, says Dabat. In addition the Murrysville restaurant, another opening is planned in Cleveland -- the first outside Pittsburgh.

You can bet the pot roast will be there. And the pot roast nachos. The only problem might be deciding which to order first.


Executive chef John J. Iaquinta of Atria's Restaurant & Tavern -- he works at the Pine location along Perry Highway -- usually makes this signature dish using 85 pounds of beef at a time. He reduced the quantity of meat to serve two people generously and adapted the recipe to make it on the stovetop. Use your favorite mashed potatoes recipe and offer bread to sop up the juices. He suggests substituting dry gravy mix, available in supermarkets, for the beef demi-glaze he uses because the gravy mix is easier to find. Iaquinta, of Brighton Heights, formerly worked at the Duquesne Club.

Bourbon Maple-Glazed Pot Roast

  • 1 pound beef tenderloin, cut into stewlike chunks
  • 1 cup red Burgundy wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to saute vegetables
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 ounces dry gravy mix, or as needed
  • 1/2 cup bias-cut celery (1/4-inch thick)
  • 1/2 cup bias-cut carrots (1/4-inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup whole pearl onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • Hot mashed potatoes
  • Green onions, bias-cut, for garnish
Place the pieces of meat in a zipper-lock freezer bag or shallow dish. Combine the wine, garlic and thyme and pour over the meat to coat. Refrigerate for at least 12 to 16 hours, turning the meat occasionally to ensure even soaking.

Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade.

Heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a pan with a cover. Add the meat pieces and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Discard the fat from the pan. Add the ketchup and allow it to caramelize. Add the bourbon and stir to deglaze the pan. Be careful when adding the bourbon, because it will ignite. It is better to add the liquor with the pan off the heat. Stir the pan contents into a paste.

Add the maple syrup. Reduce the mixture a little bit, until syrupy. Add the remaining marinade and reduce by about half.

Add the beef bouillon, water and dry gravy mix. Return the meat to the pan and stir to coat with the syrup mixture. Bring to a simmer, cover slightly and let braise for about 5 minutes, or until the beef is tender and the sauce is the desired consistency.

Meanwhile, film a skillet with extra-virgin olive oil. Heat and add the celery, carrots, pearl onions, peas and corn. Toss and saute, cooking until tender but not mushy.

To plate: Place some of the vegetables in the bottom of 2 dinner-size serving bowls. Tuck some mashed potatoes onto one side, then place pieces of beef and some of the gravy on the other. Cover with more vegetables and garnish with slivered green onions.

Makes 2 servings.

Additional Information:

Details

All locations of Atria's Restaurant & Tavern are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sundays. Call the specific restaurant for more details.

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